Recently we've been hearing a lot about the dangers of texting while driving. The amount of time it takes to read a text with your eyes off the road is miniscule, but as countless safety advocates have told us, it's too often enough to cause a serious accident. Pennsylvania is one of 39 other states that have banned the practice, and some states have banned handheld cellphone use by drivers altogether.
But even these laws may not be enough to eliminate crashes involving cars and texting, and not only because the laws are notoriously difficult for police to enforce. More and more, pedestrian accidents are being blamed on the walkers themselves -- because they're apparently just as obsessed with their cellphones as drivers are.
Every year some 4,000 pedestrians are killed and tens of thousands are injured in accidents with cars nationwide. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says that in 2011, at least 1,100 of those who wound up in hospitals suffered injuries caused while a mobile device was in use. A study that tracked pedestrians using high-risk intersections last year found that one in three was distracted by a cellphone or other mobile device. And while they may not be traveling at the speed of a car, pedestrians who aren't aware of their surroundings can wind up involved in accidents. Yes, most of these involve cars. But not always: In 2009 a girl in New York fell into a manhole while she was texting and crossing a street.
Accidents like these have led some communities to place bans on texting while walking. A city in Idaho fines people $50 for crossing a street while texting, even for a first offense. It could be some time before Pennsylvania enacts a similar law, but it pays to remember that a pedestrian who unknowingly crosses a high-traffic street on a red light while staring at a mobile device runs a high risk of much more than a citation. Don't let a car accident be the distraction that causes you to finally drop your cellphone.
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Dangerous distractions: Texting while in motion is still risky business," Jan. 7, 2013
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